Two of the three candidates running for Beverly Hills City Treasurer participated in the March 30 forum hosted by the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce and Government Affairs Committee. In a 30-minute Q&A series moderated by David Mirharooni at the Chamber’s boardroom, incumbent City Treasurer Howard Fisher (via Zoom) and businessman Jake Manaster made opening statements and took moderator and audience questions from residents, elected city officials, city staff and more. In addition to Fisher and Manaster, Gabrielle Pantera-Rowe is also running for the position. The event preceded the City Council election forum.
Current Treasurer Fisher has been in this role for the last five years. A product of the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD), Fisher is a tax and business attorney, with experience as a Traffic and Parking Commissioner, and as Chair on both the Planning Commission and the Public Works Commission. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he served on the city’s covid-19 Business Recovery Assistance Task Force to begin talks on how city policies and programs could best help the local economy.
“I’ve been involved in the city for decades and my business has been here for over 30 years,” Fisher said. “I’m a graduate of Beverly High, my wife has worked in Beverly Hills longer than I have, she’s been here for almost 45 years. I was a former Cub Scout leader, former member of the Board of Directors at Temple Emanuel. So, I’ve been around, I’ve been dedicated to this city and this community, and we’ve done a great job. We’ve never lost one penny on any investment that I’ve made in almost five years.”
A Beverly Hills resident of 20 plus years, Manaster’s experience includes serving on the BHUSD Board of Education, including one year as president, and also on the Traffic and Parking Commission, serving one year as Chair. An attorney by trade, he is currently President and CEO of Contract Carpet Corporation, a half century old flooring business in California.
“I am California born, and my children are fourth generation from Beverly Hills,” Manaster said. “My wife went to Beverly High, along with my mother-in-law. I care deeply about this city. I would not be running for office if I did not care very deeply about the future of the city. My platform includes two new items that I think the city needs to consider.” Citing financial blows from the pandemic, Manaster would form a committee of experts called “Bring back Beverly Hills” to better support the business community coming out of COVID-19 and establish a resiliency fund.
“Balancing the finances related to the surplus funds that the treasurer manages is something I’d be very skilled at doing,” Manaster said. “To stand out, however, I would establish some additional surplus funds for the future that are not currently there and I’m hoping that the treasurer’s office would be able to spearhead that and with the help and support of our City Council in being able to stabilize ourselves for the future. We have a great foundation in Beverly Hills, but one thing that I’ve noticed over the years is that we aren’t always as forward as we might like.”
While according to Fisher, budgeting is not a function of the City Treasurer, it’s one of the areas he wants to focus on. “We need to start with the zero-based budget,” Fisher said. “Look at each department, what programs need to be enhanced, what programs should be eliminated, or readjusted or reorganized in the departments. We really need to take a ground up look and make sure that this city is ready to function in this century.”
Both candidates were asked how they would attract new talent to the BHPD and BHFD, views on compensation, and how they would work with the City Council around the city budget to help attract top recruits.
“We have great pension benefits for both of them and non-compensation benefits,” Fisher noted. He would make suggestions for how to extend the force and expand active volunteer groups that expand the departments reach.
To make the city more attractive for police officers to come, Manaster suggested “creating incentives to stabilize businesses and help businesses substantially be assisted in the city to stay in the city. Those are all great things that there’s the potential for a treasurer to be able to spearhead given the acknowledgement by the City Council.” To boost economic recovery, Manaster believes that the treasurer could also act as a moderator and facilitator between individual businesses that contribute to the livability of the city and the council.
Fisher was asked about his role during the pandemic, and how it allowed him to provide relief to residents and businesses. In addition to the Business Recovery Task Force, Fisher was also active on the city’s Tourism/Hospitality/Restaurants Subcommittee and conducted outreach with several tenant associations.
“Fortunately, there wasn’t a very large impact on the treasury, the fiscal side of things, from the residents,” Fisher said. “There was on the commercial side, obviously, because of rent, although I’m proud to say that the value of real estate in Beverly Hills continued to go up throughout the pandemic, and property tax increased.”
To learn more about the candidates, visit: http://www.beverlyhills.org/cityclerk/electioninformation/meetthejune2022candidates/